80 Verses, 300 Covers

Yesterday it snowed off and on nearly all day. Those big flakes that are mesmerizing to watch, tumbling in the wind and blowing up along our street. But because it was around 40 degrees out there, each flake melted nearly as soon as it touched down, so the ultimate effect was that of a light rain falling.

And you don’t have to shovel rain. Can I have a Hallelujah, brothers and sisters?

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Speaking of Hallelujah, has that song been done too many times, for you? As for me, I haven’t tired as yet. Doubt I ever will. The Wikipedia entry for the song says that Leonard Cohen originally wrote 80+ verses for it, and it has been covered by more than 300 artists.

Three hundred covers! That’s amazing. That’s as if every single person in Pukwana, SD recorded their own version. And then some.

I’ve not heard them all, but there are a few that stand out. One is this live performance at Cohen’s induction into the Canadian Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 2006, as sung by k.d. lang with that gift of a voice she has.

(If you do watch it, carry through to the end, there’s a sweet moment there.)

Aaaaaahhhh, take me now, Lord.

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There’s a piece in this month’s issue of Consumer Reports that deals with leafy green vegetables and the problems of bacterial contamination. The perennial bad guys are E.coli, Salmonella, Listeria, and Campylobacter. The usual suspects, eh?

There’s some good news and some bad news. Which would you rather read first?

Okay, the bad news. If you want to eat greens raw, no matter what you do, there is a risk to eating them. While proper cooking will kill the pathogens, a nice plateful of iceberg lettuce/mush doesn’t hold much appeal for most people, although I wouldn’t presume to speak for thee.

All the washing in the world can get the dirt and sand off of the vegetables, but not all of the bacteria.

Our food distribution system needs some tuning up, but I don’t believe that any supplier of salad greens wants to see their name in the paper as having provided the food that caused illness and/or deaths. However, if a bird flying over your romaine field and pooping pathogens onto it can sink a batch, what’s a grower to do?

The takeaway from the CR tale seems to be, these foods are so nutritious that let’s all take our chances and have a salad for lunch, shall we? Think of it as high adventure, for the gourmandic adrenaline-junkies that we are.

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When I was a sophomore med student Patrick Bouvier Kennedy was born. He was a premature infant of 34 weeks gestation and he weighed 4 pounds, 10 ounces. Patrick immediately developed respiratory problems, and died 39 hours later of what was then called by several names, hyaline membrane disease, or idiopathic respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) being among them. In that year of his birth, 1963, all that could be done for premature babies, even the son of the President of the United States, was to keep them warm in an incubator, pipe in some supplemental oxygen, and drip IV fluids into small veins.

By 1968, when I was a second year resident in pediatrics, there was only a single neonatologist in all of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. She practiced at St. Paul Children’s Hospital, where they had primitive intravenous fluid infusion pumps and ventilators that could be used for premature infants, though they were machines built for adults, not babies. But even with their clunkiness these tools made possible a few hard-won survivals in small infants.

Without going into the physiology, something is missing from the lungs of preemies who develop RDS, and it wasn’t until 1990 that the first commercial product became available which could replace that missing substance (surfactant), at which point you would have seen a graph of the survival rate for infants with this disease rising nearly straight up.

At any rate, my professional lifetime included all of these stages, and it was a fascinating story along the way. So it occurred to me that it might be worth writing it up for the general public to read, since for that the last sixty years there has never been shortage of interest in anything that happens to a Kennedy, big or small.

I began to do the research, and after spending a few weeks collecting information I ran into something horrible. In 2015 a neonatal respiratory therapist had written exactly that story and published it as a small book. And worst of all, it’s well done.

So if any of you are interested, the author is Michael S. Ryan, and the title of the book is: Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, A Brief Life That Changed the History of Newborn Care.

I can recommend the damned thing wholeheartedly.

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This piece from Wednesday’s NYTimes brought back memories and tears to my ears. It is about the Indian government’s attempts to cut down on honking. Yes, of all the problems that the country might have, there is presently a focus on the bedlam produced by thousands of cars honking together.

Two years ago Robin and I spent a lovely few days visiting daughter Maja in Lima, Peru. Maja doesn’t drive her own car, much preferring using Uber, and letting somebody else get the nervous tics that piloting automobiles in that nation’s capital produces.

What Robin and I noticed is that every car in downtown Lima seemed to be honking at the same time. Including our driver.

Think about this for a moment. If there are warning sounds going off constantly in a 360 degree pattern around you, do you pay attention to them? Or do you tune them all out?

As a passenger, I found myself tuning them out, which meant they were nothing but useless noise. Like a bad song on the radio that you can’t turn off.

So I found the attempts to cut down on the use of horns as outlined in this article to be pretty funny. At some intersections in India, until the cars stop honking while everyone is waiting at a red light, the light stays red. Sensors do the job. It’s ingenious, but I wonder … if it happened everywhere in India (or any country, for that matter), how long would it take for the psychopaths out there behind the wheel (and honey, you just know that they’re there) to start ignoring those signal lights?

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